September 28, 2011
Written by Amos Nachoum
I have been leading expeditions to the Canadian Arctic for years. It’s an incredible trip that I would like to share with you and – according to some scientists – time is of the essence for you to come along.
Polar Bears in Danger
A recent polar bear study says that polar bear mothers and cubs are now being forced to swim hundreds of miles to reach food sources.
Why? Because the ice they use to walk across is melting.
We time our trips perfectly so that we can see the moment when polar bear mothers lead their cubs out of hibernation and into the bright sunshine for the first time. You get close to the action. It’s an amazing time for photographs or simply enjoying Biganimals in nature.
Scientists are saying that the ice melt is causing problems for the cubs. They have to swim farther for food and long swims like that are tough for little bodies. They don’t yet have the strength or the body fat to sustain long periods of exercise in the frigid waters of the Arctic.
Polar bears are not naturally aquatic creatures – they hunt, eat, sleep, and give birth on land. Their food sources, however, are aquatic – mostly seals. A mother bear will eat the vegetation surrounding the den while her cubs grow big enough to swim in the early spring, but that’s not enough calories for a polar bear, much less a nursing polar bear. So they must swim to find food and with water levels dropping steadily, that means a long journey for the mother and her baby.
Want to know more? On my ice trekking and wildlife photography expeditions, we travel by snowmobile and dog sled across the magnificent Canadian Arctic. Our guides are Inuits and our goal is to photograph polar bear families as they emerge from their snow dens.
This trip is filled with endless white landscapes topped by the purest of blue skies. We enjoy and photograph the breathtaking Aurora Borealis as you’ve never seen it before – so close, you’ll feel you can reach out and touch it. And of course, we get unforgettable portraits of polar bear adults and cubs. Visit the expedition page on my website to reserve your spot. I look forward to seeing you there!
Follow me on Twitter. Friend BigAnimals on Facebook. Connect on LinkedIn. Join my mailing list.
September 21, 2011
Written by Amos Nachoum
The 1975 Steven Spielberg movie Jaws had a universally chilling effect on the human perception of sharks and, unfortunately, firmly stamped the Hollywood version of vicious shark behavior in our memories. A more recent Hollywood effort, Soul Surfer, based on the true story of 19-year-old champion surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack, left the shark out of the story, for the most part.
Sharks get a lot of bad press. But who will defend their reputation? At TEDx Conejo, I talked to an enthusiastic audience about how Jaws is a complete fabrication. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the real nature of sharks.
End the ‘killer’ shark stereotype
Still, the misinformation and hysteria around sharks remains, and biologists, scientists, and others like myself have been working to counteract the negative shark reputation ever since.
You want the truth? The National Aquarium in Baltimore says that more people die of bee stings every year than shark attacks. And remember this: Humans are not a normal or even preferred part of the shark diet.
A number of world-famous divers, including William Winram (also known as the Shark Publicist) and Fred Buyle have been working to fight the myths around sharks and eliminate the ‘killer’ reputation of these Biganimals. These divers are known for diving with sharks and taking only their cameras – no weapons.
We recently had a well-attended scouting mission diving with the Okavango River Crocodiles, another Biganimalof seven to 12 feet in length who also comes with a sinister reputation. Our direct, personal experience – and the experiences of my crew and guests – with these river crocodiles was very different than the current public perception that labels these magnificent creatures as terrors along the river.
The Great White shark’s reputation as a nasty predator is also highly undeserved. Certainly, yes, they’re big ‒ as long as 16 feet and as heavy as two thousand pounds ‒ and they’ve got loads of teeth ‒ as many as 300 ‒ and they are powerful, but the truth is most sharks are actually quite shy and prefer to stay away from humans. Plus, they are some of the most fascinating animals you will ever encounter and some of the most rare.
Humans kill over a million sharks each year – some for their meat, cartilage and skin, some for their fins. Many are killed as bycatch by industrial fishing operations. The bottom line is that sharks have a lot more to fear from humans than the other way around. It’s not hard to figure out who the hunter is in this scenario.
Follow on Twitter. Friend on Facebook. Join my mailing list.
September 15, 2011
Written by Amos Nachoum
What is shark finning? It means you capture a shark, slice off their dorsal fin, and then tossing the shark, who is now unable to swim, back into the water, where it dies a slow death. Brutal. But people do it, because the shark’s fins are considered more valuable than the remainder of the shark. This wasteful and destructive practice contributes to loss of thousands of these amazing creatures each year.
Here is how sharks are meant to be seen, free and wild.
In the last 15 years people – not just divers and conservationists, but a broad group of people who care about the ocean – have been campaigning against finning. Shark finning has been banned in many countries and in many international waters. Recently, the Toronto City Council voted to support a ban on the sale and consumption of shark fin and California initiated a ban on shark finning.
Will these new laws change anything? Well, the first thing they have to change is the way people behave, and that starts with how they think about the ocean’s creatures.
You probably know that shark fin soup is considered a delicacy of the affluent in Asian culture, and it’s often served at wedding ceremonies and at restaurants as a symbol of status. The U.S. accounts for a very minor amount of shark fin sales, and so making the practice of shark finning illegal here might not change anything. Some people think it might push shark finning even further into the “black market” – raising prices and causing more of these animals to be slaughtered every year because of potential higher profit.
To help change behavior and make people more aware of the damage of shark finning, celebrities such as basketball star Yao Ming have come out on the anti-shark soup side. Fashionable restaurants are now offering soups with shark fin alternatives. Anti-shark fin soup billboards now display in bus stations in Beijing and China with the funds collected being rolled into additional anti-shark fin media campaigns. But there’s a still a lot to be done. Shark fin soup is not only fashionable among the wealthy classes of Hong Kong and China. Nevada – with a large Asian tourist trade in Las Vegas – has so far resisted a ban on shark finning.
As Brian Walsh, senior writer at TIME, recently wrote: “If we’re going to save sharks, we need to start treating them as animals worth saving.”
Yao Ming photo by Keith Allison via Creative Commons License.